What about the Strange Practices in Outward Appearance?

Strange Practices of outward adornment

What about the Strange Practices
in Outward Appearance?

Tattoo? Piercings? Earrings? Studs?
Weird Hairstyles? Bizarre clothes?
Many Strange Externals?

An unusual, provocative, but needed examination
of many of the Appearance issues in Contemporary Culture

Today we observe strange bodily piercing, unnatural appearances, unusual jewelry, unisex clothes, and bizarre patterns.  This is particularly the case in the youth culture of the 10- to 25-year-old crowd.  The Hip Hop culture, the Heavy Metal devotees, the Sodomites, and other young and not-so-young movements offer the best examples of this, but it can be found across the board in contemporary life–including even 80-year-olds!

Some people who have a minimum of Biblical knowledge may attempt to justify their rebellious forms of appearance by appealing to certain adornment practices in the Old Testament.  It is important to remember a basic principle of Biblical interpretation.  It is this: Much that existed before the time of Jesus Christ was regulated by the Law of Moses, and this administration of Law and life was fulfilled in Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 10:4; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:15-17; Hebrews 8:7, 13).  See also our work, The Old Covenant and the New Covenant, which shows many contrasts between these two systems and ways of life.

When we come to the new covenant of Christ, we notice that it is a deeply spiritual way of living.  God wants His people—true believers in Jesus Christ—to be vastly different from the world around them.  Paul exhorts believers, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  James gives this counsel to the follower of Christ: “. . . keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27b).  He goes so far as to say, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).  Notice another strong denunciation of being worldly-oriented: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15; cf. vv. 16-17).  See also our work, The Deadly Peril of the World!

But what about the various worldly examples of appearance that are popular today?  Any spiritually-oriented person will see the emptiness of these worldly elements of outward appearance.  Further, probably any unbiased person—even if he or she is not truly saved and forgiven—will be able to see God’s mind on such things.  Many principles of Scripture bear upon this matter.  The question is:  What does God think about such things as the following:

  • Nose rings

  • Eyebrow rings

  • Tongue jewelry

  • Lip jewelry

  • Earrings on men

  • Earrings on women

  • Strangely colored hair

  • Short hair for women

  • Long hair for men

  • Bizarre hair styles

  • Unusually cut hair

  • Bracelets, necklaces, ankle rings

  • Multiple finger rings

  • Piercings on other parts of the body

  • Tattoos on the face, neck, arms, legs, and body

  • Fingernail polish

  • Toenail polish

Obviously, the list could continue.  The human being seems to be very creative in finding new ways to adorn the face, head, arms, legs, and whole body!  These ones go to great length to “fit in” with their own crowd and be different from the average person, especially those of an earlier generation!

Obviously, we will not find a New Testament prohibition that says, “You shall not tattoo your arms!”  Nor will we read, “You shall not cut half of your hair off!”  We won’t read, “You shall not dye your hair green, blue, or yellow!”  And we will hunt in vain to read, “You shall not pierce your face!”  The new covenant writings do not give these kinds of precise regulations for the followers of Christ.  On the other hand, Jesus and His apostles and the New Testament prophets give many principles that speak to the question we are answering.  Consider a few of them:

  1. We are to always do that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute (Philippians 2:8).
  2. We are not to be conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).
  3. We are to glorify God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:20; Romans 12:1).
  4. All that we do is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  5. True, genuine, outgoing love should motivate all that we do with others and before them (1 Corinthians 16:14; Romans 13:8-10; Mark 12:28-31).
  6. We should seek to be honorable in the sight of others (2 Corinthians 8:21; 1:12; Romans 12:17; Hebrews 13:18).
  7. We are to be light to others—not represent darkness and evil (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15).
  8. We are to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34) and we have crucified the flesh (Galatians 5:24)—and this includes all self-centered and fleshly practices.
  9. All pride and prideful attitudes and expressions are sinful and must be renounced (Proverbs 16:5, 18).
  10. We are to live with an attitude of humility (Matthew 23:12; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).
  11. We are to be dressed in proper, respectable, and suitable clothing (1 Timothy 2:9, NASB, ESV, NET Bible).
  12. We are to be dressed modestly (1 Timothy 2:9).
  13. We are to be dressed discreetly and with self-control (1 Timothy 2:9, NASB, ESV).
  14. We are not to have elaborately braided hair (1 Timothy 2:9).
  15. We are not to be adorned with gold or pearls (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3).
  16. It is a dishonor for a man to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14).
  17. It is a glory for a woman to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:15).
  18. We are to make no provision for the flesh by participating in fleshly indulgence (Romans 13:14).
  19. We are not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
  20. It is not profitable for a man or woman to wear certain articles (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).
  21. We must do nothing or wear nothing that would cause a fellow-believer to stumble into sin by encouraging him or her to do something they cannot conscientiously do (1 Corinthians 8:9,11,12,13; Romans 14:13).
  22. We should not do anything to hurt a fellow-believer (Romans 14:15).
  23. We are to give no offense to either the believer or unbeliever (1 Corinthians 10:32).
  24. We should do nothing to please ourselves but should dress to bless others (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:33; Romans 15:2).
  25. We should do nothing to harm a brother or sister (Romans 13:10).
  26. We should discipline our body and make it our slave (1 Corinthians 9:27).
  27. We should recognize the major difference between the believer and the unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).
  28. The Christian is to cleanse himself from “all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  29. We should be a good example to both believer and unbeliever (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
  30. We should flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22).
  31. We should abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).
  32. We should look like a godly person (1 Timothy 2:9-10) and our heart should be reflected in our appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4).
  33. We should seek to follow the example of Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 4:9).
  34. We should seek to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ and be conformed to His likeness (1 Peter 2:21; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
  35. We should not do anything that is connected with a rebellious attitude or demeanor (1 Samuel 15:23).
  36. We should to nothing that would associate us with foolish and wrongful companions (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20; Psalm 1:1).
  37. We should apply the “fruit” test to all of these matters—what is the normal, natural, and usual fruit associated with these worldly practices (c. Matthew 7:17, 20; 12:33).
  38. We are to draw near to God and this cannot be done when we indulge in worldly, compromising, perverse, and evil practices (James 4:8; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:2).

Although there are many other principles and teachings in the New Testament that bear upon this present concern, this should be sufficient to show that the kinds of appearance issues we noticed earlier should have no place in our life.  The Christian is a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17)!  This means that he has denied self and renounced his own self-centered, self-directed, self-glorifying, and self-oriented ways!  This means that his entire way of life is directed by the Word of God, his entire focus is on Jesus Christ the Lord, and his goal is to glorify His beloved God.

Let us turn from every prideful, worldly, and fleshly practice—and let us walk humbly with God in our outward appearance.  Only those who turn from pride and walk in humility can be saved!

Richard Hollerman


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